Make Power to Manual Steering Conversions Easy Part 2

Click Here to Begin Slideshow As we noted in the last issue, finding any of the popular steering boxes might not be as easy as it sounds. Using them as-is might just be worse. Some have been out of production for a considerable length of time, and the truth is, a worn out old steering box isn’t the most racer-friendly piece on earth. Fast forward to today. The folks from Borgeson Universal Company have a large selection of new and blueprinted used steering boxes in their parts inventory. Borgeson is now the original equipment manufacturer and re-manufacturer of Saginaw manual steering gears. They actually purchased all of the original equipment, tooling and drawings along with the OEM manufacturing rights for all Saginaw manual steering gear boxes from BSD Automotive Technologies in Canada. Borgeson moved all of the manufacturing into their modern 50,000 square foot facility in Torrington, Conn. When it comes to rebuilt boxes, they buy large volumes of cores, chemically strip them, inspect every part, replace or re-machine anything worn and then carefully blueprint each box to exacting factory specifications. Plus, of course, they manufacture brand spanking new manual steering boxes. Included in the brand new manual steering box mix, Borgeson offers the previously mentioned Vega boxes, GM 122 and 525 boxes, ’68-82 Corvette boxes, ’68-’78 GM truck manual boxes (2WD) and several side-steer and reversed steering box examples (mainly for the street rod crowd). Borgeson also manufactures power to manual steering conversion kits for a number of GM families: ’78-88 Malibu (Monte Carlo, 442, Grand National, etc), ’68-72 Chevelle (442, Skylark, GTO, etc), ’64-67 Chevelle (442, Skylark, GTO, etc) and ’70-81 Camaro (along with ’75-’79 Nova, Omega, etc.). These particular swap kits include a 525 steering box, a correct pitman arm and ½-rag joint (where needed). Even though this is a heavy-duty arrangement, it still works out to a weight savings of approximately 28 pounds when compared to a factory power setup. Pitman Arms… One piece that’s not easy to find is the appropriate pitman arm for either power steering or manual steering. GM never considered the pitman arm to be a service item. As a result, your local dealer could never order one for you because it wasn’t in the parts catalog. Trying to find one is often like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack. Borgeson comes to the rescue here too. They offer four different pitman arms for manual applications: The first is flat and manufactured from bendable steel on 6-inch centers for 122 and 525 boxes. The next is a similar setup, but on 7-inch centers. They have a flat pitman for the 140 Vega box – it’s bendable and is on 6-inch centers. Finally, they have a dropped (1/2-inch) example on 5-inch centers for 122 and 525 steering boxes. If you have a first Gen Camaro or Nova, Classic Industries offers a replacement pitman arm. Rag Joints… Joining the steering column to the steering box on virtually every GM product (and plenty of other cars too) is a flexible joint, commonly referred to as a “rag joint.” The purpose is to provide a small amount of flex between the steering column shaft and the steering box input shaft. It also allows for a minute amount of misalignment between the two (within approximately 5 degrees of the same plane). The rag joint takes up minor shifting and movement between the body and frame (or sub frame). Simultaneously, the rag joint provides vibration damping (and believe it or not, noise) from the steering system and road, effectively providing some insulation for the steering wheel. Finally, the flex coupling provides for an electrical ground for the horn circuit - necessary if you use the horn button to engage the transbrake or line lock or nitrous, though that’s another story. Fair enough, but rag joints don’t last forever. They live in a hot, harsh environment and after 40 or so years of use, they often require attention (although we’ve seen plenty of rag joints that are in good shape even after 100,000 or so miles). On a similar note, power steering rag joints and manual rag joints are different. If you make the switch from one form of steering to the other, you’ll need an application-specific rag joint. There are several options. The folks at Borgeson offer a very wide range of functional replacements, which work perfectly and easily replace the original equipment parts. Classic Industries also offers original GM rag joints, reproduction rag joints as well as repair kits to fix your existing joint. Finally, Classic Industries stocks the special 12-point coupler bolts used for almost all Chevy rag joints from 1967 through 1979. For more info, check out the accompanying photos.

Make Power to Manual Steering Conversions Easy Part 2

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

As we noted in the last issue, finding any of the popular steering boxes might not be as easy as it sounds. Using them as-is might just be worse. Some have been out of production for a considerable length of time, and the truth is, a worn out old steering box isn’t the most racer-friendly piece on earth.

Fast forward to today. The folks from Borgeson Universal Company have a large selection of new and blueprinted used steering boxes in their parts inventory. Borgeson is now the original equipment manufacturer and re-manufacturer of Saginaw manual steering gears. They actually purchased all of the original equipment, tooling and drawings along with the OEM manufacturing rights for all Saginaw manual steering gear boxes from BSD Automotive Technologies in Canada. Borgeson moved all of the manufacturing into their modern 50,000 square foot facility in Torrington, Conn. When it comes to rebuilt boxes, they buy large volumes of cores, chemically strip them, inspect every part, replace or re-machine anything worn and then carefully blueprint each box to exacting factory specifications. Plus, of course, they manufacture brand spanking new manual steering boxes.

Included in the brand new manual steering box mix, Borgeson offers the previously mentioned Vega boxes, GM 122 and 525 boxes, ’68-82 Corvette boxes, ’68-’78 GM truck manual boxes (2WD) and several side-steer and reversed steering box examples (mainly for the street rod crowd).

Borgeson also manufactures power to manual steering conversion kits for a number of GM families: ’78-88 Malibu (Monte Carlo, 442, Grand National, etc), ’68-72 Chevelle (442, Skylark, GTO, etc), ’64-67 Chevelle (442, Skylark, GTO, etc) and ’70-81 Camaro (along with ’75-’79 Nova, Omega, etc.). These particular swap kits include a 525 steering box, a correct pitman arm and ½-rag joint (where needed). Even though this is a heavy-duty arrangement, it still works out to a weight savings of approximately 28 pounds when compared to a factory power setup.

Pitman Arms…

One piece that’s not easy to find is the appropriate pitman arm for either power steering or manual steering. GM never considered the pitman arm to be a service item. As a result, your local dealer could never order one for you because it wasn’t in the parts catalog. Trying to find one is often like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack.

Borgeson comes to the rescue here too. They offer four different pitman arms for manual applications: The first is flat and manufactured from bendable steel on 6-inch centers for 122 and 525 boxes. The next is a similar setup, but on 7-inch centers. They have a flat pitman for the 140 Vega box – it’s bendable and is on 6-inch centers. Finally, they have a dropped (1/2-inch) example on 5-inch centers for 122 and 525 steering boxes. If you have a first Gen Camaro or Nova, Classic Industries offers a replacement pitman arm.

Rag Joints…

Joining the steering column to the steering box on virtually every GM product (and plenty of other cars too) is a flexible joint, commonly referred to as a “rag joint.” The purpose is to provide a small amount of flex between the steering column shaft and the steering box input shaft. It also allows for a minute amount of misalignment between the two (within approximately 5 degrees of the same plane). The rag joint takes up minor shifting and movement between the body and frame (or sub frame). Simultaneously, the rag joint provides vibration damping (and believe it or not, noise) from the steering system and road, effectively providing some insulation for the steering wheel. Finally, the flex coupling provides for an electrical ground for the horn circuit - necessary if you use the horn button to engage the transbrake or line lock or nitrous, though that’s another story.

Fair enough, but rag joints don’t last forever. They live in a hot, harsh environment and after 40 or so years of use, they often require attention (although we’ve seen plenty of rag joints that are in good shape even after 100,000 or so miles). On a similar note, power steering rag joints and manual rag joints are different. If you make the switch from one form of steering to the other, you’ll need an application-specific rag joint. There are several options. The folks at Borgeson offer a very wide range of functional replacements, which work perfectly and easily replace the original equipment parts. Classic Industries also offers original GM rag joints, reproduction rag joints as well as repair kits to fix your existing joint. Finally, Classic Industries stocks the special 12-point coupler bolts used for almost all Chevy rag joints from 1967 through 1979.

For more info, check out the accompanying photos.

Make Power to Manual Steering Conversions Easy Part 2 1

GM steering boxes typically bolt to the frame with three fasteners. It’s a good idea to change the hardware during a rebuild or if you’re swapping from one steering box to another (hardware doesn’t last forever). Here’s a look at the dedicated OEM fasteners from Classic Industries.

Make Power to Manual Steering Conversions Easy Part 2 2

Swapping from a power steering setup to manual steering can remove a ton of clutter (and weight) from a car. This Nova (obviously) came factory-equipped with power steering.

Make Power to Manual Steering Conversions Easy Part 2 3

Here’s the after shot. Installed, this is a new 525 steering box installed in a Nova complete with a new pitman arm and an appropriate rag joint. It’s a bunch neater (lighter too).

Make Power to Manual Steering Conversions Easy Part 2 4

A big part of the engine compartment clean-up was due to this brand spanking new 525 Saginaw steering box from Borgeson.

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